How to Stay Healthy While Traveling
Whether you’re a frequent flier or the occasional traveler, you’ve probably experienced feeling run down after spending time on an airplane. There are a number of other factors that can contribute to feeling sick post flight. Close proximity to a large number of fellow travelers, disrupted sleep patterns, as well as eating unhealthy snacks and meals all can contribute to feeling less than stellar when you arrive at your destination. Some even speculate that our immune system’s ability to fight off illness is compromised by low humidity levels in airplane cabins at high altitudes.
Although informative, we don’t need endless scientific data to tell us that traveling can make you feel under the weather. Fortunately, there are plenty of tips and tricks that can keep you feeling healthy as you make your way across the world, country, state, or province.
Keep your hands clean. The CDC lists routine hand washing as the number one way to stop the spread of disease and sickness, especially in an enclosed space like an aircraft. Carrying hand sanitizer is a great solution for travel, that way you won’t have to squeeze past the person sitting next to you each time you’d like to wash away those pesky germs. A study done by TravelMath sent microbiologists to 5 different U.S. airports to collect 26 samples on flights by 2 major airline carriers. Their findings revealed that airplane tray tables, drinking fountain buttons, overhead air vents, lavatory flush buttons, seatbelt buckles, and bathroom stall locks where the culprits of harboring the most bacteria. Based on how often we come in contact with those items during travel, keeping our hands clean (and packing disinfecting wipes for the tray table!) is a simple precaution that can be worth it in the end.
Get enough sleep before and while you travel. An article found in Health Magazine tells us that those who get less than seven hours of sleep are nearly three times as likely to catch cold in comparison to those who get eight hours or more of rest per night. It’s true - throwing your sleep schedule off course for even a few nights can hinder your body’s ability to fight off the viruses that make you feel sick.
Stay hydrated. We all know that drinking water is good for us, but when we travel drinking enough water can seem like the last priority. Staying hydrated is particularly important while inside an airplane. The low humidity levels can make you feel thirsty, so go ahead and reap the benefits of drinking extra water! Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can both be dehydrating. Studies have shown that alcohol in particular can take a toll on your immune system, making your body more susceptible to infections.
Choose a window seat. According to an article in Time Magazine, choosing an aisle seat puts you at the highest risk of exposure to sickness causing bacteria. Think about it: as passengers board the airplane, many hang onto the top or headrest of the aisle seat for support. Additionally, when passengers in the aisle cough or sneeze, the seat with closest proximity is the aisle seat. Maybe the window seat is good for more than the scenic views?
Don’t worry too much. Fortunately for us, humans are built with an immune system to defend against sickness, even within the bounds of a pressurized airplane cabin. The intention of this post is not to cause stress, worry, or to turn you into a paranoid traveler. Simply put, if something doesn’t seem healthy or clean, be mindful and take good care of yourself.